Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Keystone Progress files appeal of Office of Attorney General denial of healthcare reform lawsuit Right to Know Request

Calls OAG’s reasoning “bizarre,” for claiming this information could create a “risk of physical harm” to Corbett; asks for immediate release of documents.

(HARRISBURG)—Keystone Progress (KP) has filed an appeal of Tom Corbett’s Office of Attorney General denial of its Right to Know request. KP filed its request seeking information on correspondence concerning Corbett’s politically motivated suit to overturn the federal healthcare reform legislation. This is the second request for this information by Keystone Progress and its second denial.

The appeal by Keystone Progress rebuts each of OAG’s reasons for denying KP’s appeal.

The first reason given by OAG for denying this information is that it “would compromise the personal safety and security of not only the Attorney General and his security personnel but other staff acting on behalf of the Attorney General in the furtherance of the responsibilities and law enforcement duties of this agency. Additionally, the dissemination of such daily activities would allow the general public to discern a pattern of destinations which could easily be utilized for purposes of causing intentional harm to an individual, thus creating ‘a substantial and demonstrable risk of physical harm to or the personal security of an individual.’

This reason for denial is bizarre on its face, unless OAG is suggesting that there are so many relevant emails by the Attorney General and his OAG staff that the public could determine a pattern of behavior by the AG or OAG staff. If this is indeed the case, then the Right to Know Officer (Robert A. Mulle) and the Right to Know Appeals Officer are under obligation to turn this information over to the appropriate legal authorities since every correspondent in this request is a political organization or operative and would have no legitimate reason for being in correspondence with the AG or OAG staff using the time and resources of the Commonwealth.

The second reason for denying KP’s request is that the documents are exempt if they are records that reflect “internal, predecisional deliberations.” This is irrelevant because the records requested are correspondence between OAG and political operatives and organizations.

The third citation used by OAG claims that the documents are protected by attorney-client privilege. This citation does not apply because none of the entities in our request qualify as clients. Therefore, no attorney-client privilege exists. All of the individuals and organizations in our request are purely political entities and have no expectation of attorney-client privilege.

Furthermore, each of the organizations and individuals in our request are in the public arena. By sharing information with these organizations and individuals, the Office of Attorney General has placed this information in public, thereby waiving any claim of attorney-client privilege.

Keystone Progress is seeking all correspondence concerning that suit between the OAG and numerous political operatives and organizations. This was KP’s second request for this information. The first was turned down by Corbett’s office. The second request was the same as the first except that it named specific individuals and entities.

Fourteen state attorneys general have filed suit to overturn the Affordable Healthcare for America Act, the federal healthcare reform law. Corbett has repeatedly denied that his efforts are political, despite the fact that he agreed to join the suit even before he had read the healthcare reform law. The lawsuit was filed just seven minutes after President Obama signed the bill into law.

The staff of the attorneys general have been working with the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). RSLC describes itself as “the only national organization whose mission is electing Republicans to the office of Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State and State Legislator.”1 RSLC is organized as a 527 organization which has contributed over $58 million to elect Republicans at the state level. RSLC was Corbett’s largest contributor during his race for reelection as attorney general, giving him $691,000, according to the PA Department of State.2

The request seeks all correspondence between OAG and the following:

  • Republican State Leadership Committee
  • Republican Attorneys General Association
  • Republican Party of Pennsylvania
  • Republican National Committee
  • American Justice Partnership
  • Caleb Consulting
  • Tom Corbett for Governor
  • Tim Barnes, Chairman, Republican State Leadership Committee
  • Scott Ward, President, Republican State Leadership Committee
  • Ben Cannatti, Political Director, Republican State Leadership Committee
  • Erin Berry, Associate General Counsel, Republican State Leadership Committee
  • Casey Phillips, Regional Political Director, Republican State Leadership Committee
  • Michael Luethy, Regional Political Director, Republican State Leadership Committee
  • Adam Temple, Press Secretary, Republican State Leadership Committee
  • Robert Sechrist, Director of New Media, Republican State Leadership Committee
  • Michael Steele, Chairman, Republican National Committee
  • Karl Rove
  • Chirag Shah, Campaign Manager for JB Van Hollen WI Attorney General
  • Rob Gleason, Chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania
  • Joyce Haas, Vice-Chair of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania
  • Christine J. Toretti, Republican National Committeewoman
  • Robert Asher, Republican National Committeeman

1 Republican State Leadership Committee website http://www.rslc.com/about-rslc/
2Pennsylvania Department of State http://www.campaignfinance.state.pa.us/ContributionSearchResults.aspx?RequestID=346769&StartRow=1&RowsPerPage=10&SortOrder=0

Keystone Progress is Pennsylvania’s largest online progressive network with over 200,000 subscribers. Keystone Progress is also a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.

No comments: